Saturday, January 28, 2012

What Makes a Classic?

The first time I saw Casablanca, all I could think was...YAWN. Also, meh. The problem with seeing a movie like Casablanca seventy years after it was released is obvious: It has been referenced a zillion times in subsequent movies...everything fresh and new in 1942 has been rendered Old Hat. I was a lot more affected by Citizen Kane, but again the weight of all that came after blanched any perception I had of the movie. What makes a classic? Movies we can all agree upon as "awesome"? We should let the experts decide, I guess. But if you think about it, the classics for the individual are based on entirely different criteria than theatrical excellence and longevity.

When I was home, I asked my mom, "What is the movie you can and want to watch over and over again?" When she answered, "Independence Day," you can imagine my delight. What makes this movie so eternal? It's scary, it's snappy, it has a lot of (cheezy) heart, and, let's face it: It is totally All-American. Yes, yes, the world unites...but of course the US figures out how to defeat the bad guys. Like always! But with uber sexays Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum. I mean, HELLO. How more American can you get?

Another classic for me, the individual?: Grease 2. Anyone who loved this movie back in the day (7 to 13 year olds), will now tell you it is a shitshow that makes you blush to be watching it at the first frame. You should be ashamed of yourself. And for anyone who participated in the making of this dorkalicious idiocy. And yet! You can love a movie specifically because it makes you the point of the point of screaming with laughter. Who can negate the pure glee of watching Johnny Nogerelli (Adrian Zmed) snake dance on his knees during the "We're Gonna Score Tonight" song at the bowling alley...especially after experiencing his falsetto screech, followed by "Hey Paulette, take a look over here"? This is Danny Zuko's successor?? A 4'9" squealing poser? Awesome. How about the showdown in the bowling alley's parking lot, when the "Cool Rider" (Maxwell Caulfield) actually sings (badly) "Everyone around you thinks that you're a star!!!!!" Really, who IS that guy? And when can we smack him in his overfat lips?

But, really, what makes it a classic? Is it the uber naughty "Reproduction" (make my stamen go berserk) or Stephanie Zinoni's (Michelle Pfeiffer) extra sexay "Cool Rider"? Nah. It's the afternoon I spent watching this movie with my sister, insisting that it was a coolkid classic "in the moment" of 1983...then over the course of all the ridiculousness, the absolute meltdown of giggles (screaming giggles) once we reached the emotional climax of the movie: Michael has zoomed off a cliff to (supposed) death and his love, Stephanie, still must perform in the high school talent show (like you do). And then the duet to end ALL TIMES commences: "Turn Back the Hands of Time." Jesus Please Us. It is absolutely the greatest moment of stupidity ever caught on tape...and edited for film...forever...on purpose. WOW.

And it is a classic because I will never forget that afternoon, rolling on the floor with my sister, screaming with laughter. And, oddly enough, I will also never forget the hours my best girlfriends and I spent watching Grease 2 years earlier, idolizing Stephanie Zinoni and crushing on Maxwell Caulfield. We watched it on repeat for hours, eating anniversary cake (white cake, white icing: the beginning of my obsession with that particular cake), just before my very best friend in the world was whisked off to Venezuela for four years (it was supposed to be 3 months). And just before my mom lost her job and we had to move to the wrong side of the tracks, where I soon learned about food stamps and ill-fitting clothes...just in time for puberty.

Classic. See how that works?


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